I remember it was 3 years ago, I told my friend idealistically, if I visited Japan, it would be in Cherry Blossom season. But reality did bite… To afford Japan in Cherry Blossom season was out of my league. So I ended up buying ticket to Australia instead. And this year, I finally got the chance to say Hi! to the land of the raising sun in .. *Taiko-sound* Cherry Happy Yippie Blossom season!! *Belly-dancing* :p
Japan always be marvelously special for those who has visited the country, at least 9 out of 10 of my friends said so. They’ve always wanted coming back and never had enough. And I agreed. Yah well this was my first and only, but I totally had a great time during my 7 days in Japan, -Tokyo to be exact. And yes, I will make another visit, someday.
Since I went with err travel agency (hate to say it!), it would be so boring if I told you details. Therefore, I will share things that impressed me and of course the most memorable ones. But overall, I kinda satisfied of the itinerary the agency has made, they provided 1,5 days of free time that I delightedly used it to accomplish my personal to-do-list. You know me, right? 😉
So here are the top 10 most memorable things I had in Tokyo :
1. FLY WITH JAL (Japan Airlines)
I like to write my opinion after flying with airlines. I love the fact that when I’m visiting a new country, I could experience their national airlines as well. So it would be like a smooth introduction of the country atmosphere before you’re really engaging it. Yah well, that’s only me and my thought.
Hence, I’m so happy that I could fly with JAL in my first visit to Japan. First good impression I had is that they have a very convenient legroom. Probably the most spacious one I had so far for economy class. And what I like next is the flight attendant avidly commuting to gave us food and snacks and offered drinks over and over during our 7 hours flight, no chance for being dehydrated at all.
And the most surprising thing, they had WiFi on board!! I saw ‘Wi-Fi available’ sticker on the wall just like in a cafe or restaurant. Hmm, felt like I can smell the hi-tech image of Japan through JAL at that time. Well I know it’s not a fresh news, other airlines must already have it too. But seeing WiFi-available sticker in economy class? That’s a new thing for me, even our beloved GA (Garuda Indonesia) is not ready for that yet, I guess.
So I was gladly turn my WiFi on and about to say hello from the air to my friends, till I realized that the WiFi was not free. Yeahh, I’m sorry for being too naive about that. If you want to use the WiFi, of course it required to buy a credit first, which is quiet expensive. Sigh.
2. FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH CHERRY BLOSSOM & HANAMI
Nope, it’s not in Ueno Park or Shinjuku Gyoen Park, which are worldwide famous to enjoy the gorgeous Cherry Blossom blooming season. My first encounter with Cherry Blossom is in a small park near Sumida River. Before headed to Sensoji, the oldest shrine in Tokyo, I managed to stop by at Sumida River to take picture with Tokyo SkyTree background. And there was the first time I get attached to Sakura trees up close and personal. You know what I meant right? Yep, taking photos :p
To make it complete, I also went to Ueno Park. A park where you can enjoy Sakura Mitsuri (Sakura festival) and see how the Japanese roll during Cherry Blossom season or more known as Hanami. I heard that local people have to secure a spot for Hanami from the early morning, because Cherry blossom usually bloom in quiet short period between late March and early April, so they will race to have a spot beneath sakura tree for having that Hanami thingy.
Ueno Park has more than 1000 sakura trees and it was extremely crowded at that time. So crowded that I had to walk like a Penguin! But instead of being dizzy, I felt so excited and happy to be in the middle of Cherry Blossom trees and multi-dozen groups of local people having Hanami. It was so entertaining to see those groups of old men-families-school gangs-etc together having a cute picnic beneath Sakura trees while enjoying their bento box -which I’d love to join so much!
If you noticed in my previous post here, one of my bucket-list is having a Hanami while in Japan. But since it’s impossible for me to lock a spot from dusk time, and joining a strange group would be combo awkward and weird at the same time. So for the sake of the bucket-list, I ended up asking 2 girls to have me on their mat, just to take photo. Well, I was trying hard not to take their food, though. Ain’t real Hanami, but enough to made me feel like the local! Precisely the same like in Kobo-Chan or Sailor Moon comics, my fave reading in childhood. 😀
But, thankfully! God granted my wish on my last day in Tokyo. A friend told me that I have to spare some time in Tokyo Bay, lazing around the beach. So I did! I know it’s an artificial beach, but what makes it so special is the atmosphere! When I strolled around the beach, There’s this stunning view of Rainbow bridge on the right side, and shady park full of Cherry Blossom on the left side, complete with local people having picnic both on the beach and in the park. Both view and atmosphere was so tempting, so I decided to have Hanami (finally!) in that park, while having Onigiri and a can of coffee, added with the dramatic Sakura petal drops when it turned a bit windy and breezy. Even though I was all alone, but it was undeniably romantic yet marvelously special. Spent like 4 hours sitting there doing nothing but enjoying the best moment I had in Tokyo.
3. OMIKUJI FORTUNE TELLING
I’m not a temple or shrine or museum person, so when first arrived at Sensoji Temple, the only thing that get me excited is to have Omikuji, a fortune telling paper strip. It usually available just outside the shrines or temples in Japan. Traditionally, Japanese used it as a decision guidance, but nowadays it mostly used for fun purpose only, but yeah..depends on the people.
The ground rules is pretty simple, we only have to pay Y100 (IDR 10k), and there will be a cylinder box stuffed with bamboo sticks. All we have to do is just shaking the box until a stick fall out from the box. The bamboo stick already has a Japanese number on it, that will guide us to which Omikuji belongs to ours. These Omikuji usually rolled up or folded, but in Sensoji, the Omikuji were stored in a drawer. So we just need to find a drawer that has the same number like on our stick. (Please be noted that the number is in Japanese so it kinda took time for me to found it! Phew..)
To be honest, I need to read the paper more than 3 times to make sure what it’s all about. The statement written on it is more like a poem, that’s why it’s a bit hard to understand. But believe it or not, it sort of an answer of my current confusion after all. Hahaha… Let me show you mine on the photo below.
“The moon is covered by floating clouds. You will have difficulties in making any plans. Do your best and ask for help to others. Then you will be able to catch a good fortune. You don’t have to worry, open your eyes and look into the future.”
“Your wishes will be realized in the end. A sick person will recover but take a little while. The person you are waiting for will show up after a while. The lost article will not be found. Building a new house and removal are both half fortunate. Marriage and making a trip are both good. Employment should be stopped”
Employment should be stopped? Really? Wow, enlightening!
If it’s not a good fortune, people usually tied the Omikuji around the tree’s branch, so the bad luck will stay to the tree instead of following the guys who got it. In my case, since it was a better fortune, so I kept it with me.
4. THE MOST COMFORTABLE TOILET I HAD SO FAR!
What I like best during my stay in Japan, is … their sophisticated Toilet!! I’ve been to countries that has multiple buttons on their toilet, but in Tokyo, the toilet buttons deliver more satisfaction! They even have music button, and a heater!! WOW, right?!
I was confused at first sitting on the warm toilet, thought it was broken, overheated and about to explode or something. When I looked at the control panels with oh-so-many buttons, just realized the toilet has a seat-heater! OMG! Very cool! Thanks to this feature, I’d love to sit on the toilet even though I had nothing to do with it. LOL
And I didn’t have any idea why on earth a toilet has to have a music button. So that we can relax while having ‘the-business’? Until someone told me that in Japan, the sound while you’re having ‘the-business’ is considered as embarrassing and inappropriate. So they need to do something to mask it, and voila! then attached the music! What a super-duper-clever innovation.
5. FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH SNOW!
All my life has been wondering how the snow would feel like. Yeah, the perks of living in tropical country, indeed. Though it was spring in Tokyo, but luckily the snow still covered up the top of Mt Fuji. And on my 3rd day in Tokyo, I was scheduled to go to the highest level of Mt Fuji. Yeayness! Suppah-excited! My excitement getting more heightened when I saw heaps of snow along the way to level 4. Yeah, I only made it to level 4, not the highest one, because unfortunately, level 5 were closed due to unfinished snow removal off the road. But that’s totally oh-kay as long as I could still enjoy the snow.
The second I got out from the bus, I deliberately touched the snow wall, grabbed as many as I can. And how dit it feel? It’s practically the same like touching the ice on the freezer, so cold that it hurts my palms. Walking on the snow with a shoes without grip was also a huge mistake. I got slipped many times because of that. Geez, so every time I step, I should step extra carefully just like a zombie to prevent from falling. That was ridiculously fun yet annoying.
Anyway, I think Fuji-san is much better to enjoy not from the highest point, because the higher the level, you’ll see the closer look of Mt Fuji, and all you can actually see is only a snowy top which more looks like a hill. I’d prefer level 2 and Kawaguchiko as perfect places to enjoy Fuji-san completely. But of course, stopping by in every level would still be interesting and a must do.
Fuji-San from Level 4
Fuji-San from Kawaguchiko
6. I ADORE TOKYO PEOPLE!
I would say that they are genuinely generous! Many times I got problem in Tokyo, those people always helped me out. No matter if they’re group of moms, group of girls, or group of boys. They all were very-very kind. I will mention these 3 out of many proofs of their helpful attitude towards me.
The first, I was walked down to Harajuku from my hotel in Shibuya, directed by a map. When I was sure that I already reach Harajuku area, the next thing is I had no clue where the hell Takeshita Dori is. Didn’t want to waste time looking for it by myself so I asked 2 girls and you know what? they offered to take me to the street instead. Wow thank you, girls!
After finished exploring Takeshita Street, I decided going back to Shibuya by train, Harajuku station is located just next to Takeshita Street, so it wasn’t difficult to find. And that time became my very first subway experience in Tokyo. Since I know Harajuku and Shibuya station is very close, I chose to buy single ticket but…had no idea how to operate the ticket machine. so I asked group of boys who stood nearby, in less than 1 minute, I got my train ticket. What made it special, one of the boys initiated to take me right to the train, made sure that I won’t take the wrong train. “Arigatou Gozaimasu!” I yelled to the boys.
Another moment, I was about to go back to the hotel from DisneySea and decided to add credit to my Pasmo Card -I got this card from my friend in Indonesia who just came back from Japan. Pasmo Card is one of most reliable smart card in Japan, it can be used not only for transportation but also to buy goods or services in stores.
When I tried to insert the card to a machine, something went wrong with the card, it kept coming out. Looking confused, these middle-aged woman who stood behind me asking what happened, and I explained to them that something wrong with my card. They tried to help me but the card still couldn’t work. They asked me where I’m going and suggested me to buy single ticket. But I think they kind of confused how much money needed to get to Shibuya station. It took like more than 15 minutes that we were stuck in front of the machine, looking for the solution, yet they kept intended to help instead of left me behind. Finally, one of the woman called a customer service than can be contacted through the machine, telling the guy about my card problem. Long story short, they took me to the nearest ticketing office, just like that and the guy in the office did that magic thing that made my card work again. So I said thank you many times to these women…they’re absolutely so kind and generous. I was so lucky to meet them!
I don’t know, but if I were these people who stood in the same queue with me, I might be a bit pissed off and move to the other line. Even though they spoke very limited english, they still intended to help. That’s why I salute these Japanese people so much! *raising glass*
7. HAVING ONSEN!
I knew Onsen few years ago after read an article about it. And that very time I have the urge to experience it. Many people would have a big NO! but not for me. I don’t care how much I’m going to spend on it. Because somehow, I agreed that some experiences worth a little splurge. Turns out, it’s not that expensive though. I spent only Y1980 (IDR 200k) with no maximum time.
Short explanation, Onsen is Japanese natural hot spring which enjoyed naked. Yes, completely naked. Don’t worry, they have separated places for man and woman. Why naked? If I’m not mistaken, in the hot spring, they have this minerals that can be very useful to human’s body. And to prevent the hot spring from any bacteria or dirt, people have to get in without clothes at all. While clothes considered as bacteria material. Even people themselves required to rinse off first before getting in the hot spring.
Had been searching on the internet, where the best place to have Onsen in Tokyo. Many articles said Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba is one of the best. Hmm, my dots is connected now! I had list to see in Odaiba, and this Monogatari Onsen also located in the same area. What a coincidence! So I planned to do it on my last day in Tokyo. Such a good thing to do as a closing activity, isn’t it!?
After visited 4 major places in Odaiba (Diver City, Palette Town, Aqua City, Decks Tokyo Beach), and finished my sunset moment on the beach, then it would be perfect to relax in an Onsen before heading back to my hotel in Shibuya. Believe it or not, I walked all the way from the beach to Oedo Onsen, which I thought it wouldn’t be that far and I was totally wrong about it. Sigh. It took me 1,5 hours to walk and I was very-very exhausted when finally arrived at Oedo Onsen Monogatari.
At first, I felt so awkward and uncomfortable. Then I saw people being absolutely normal like nothing’s wrong for being naked. They didn’t even give any creepy look towards each other so.. it made me relax and easy to blend in. I have tried almost all pool there, both indoor and outdoor, even the cute Hinoki bath tub! (Read here for detail steps)
Something went wrong after almost an hour soaking in, I started to feel dizzy, like extremely dizzy, I could barely get up and walk. So I decided to go shower and finish my onsen immediately. At the end I found out that I shouldn’t stay in the water for a long time, because it would excessively raise blood pressure and heart rate, just like having a heat stroke or heat exhaustion. The correct way to have an Onsen is that we have to get out of the bathtub after being in for short periods and take breaks in between bathing. Gosh, I should have studied about it first! But still, this is one of the best experience I had in Japan. Now I can tick off one of my List! Yeay!
8. NOT EVERYTHING IS EXPENSIVE IN TOKYO
When I did research about Tokyo, I remembered someone mentioned on their blog that visitor has to be careful with shops in Tokyo. Because they have so many super-cute stuff that will ripped you off before you know it. And that is true. But… if you are lucky enough to find the cheap one, you’ll be so much happy about it. Like me.
Say it with 3 COINS. This is the shop that available in various districts in Tokyo. I myself accidentally found it in one of train station when I was heading to Odaiba. This 3 COINS shop has everything with only Y300 or IDR 30k. If you are familiar with Daiso, I could say that 3 COINS sells more cute stuff with better quality. For instance, I bought this very cute rain coat for only Y300!! Lalalalala!
Flying Tiger Copenhagen. Don’t bother with the name, you will easily fall in love with the stuff they have. It’s super kawaii (read:cute) and the price in unbelievably cheap! After a quick scanning, I got a bit shocked when looking at my shopping basket, there were more than 10 items in it! I tried to have control but I want them all! Aghhh! It was a tough decision to made but I finally settled the necessary ones. They are sunglasses, cilinder box, accessories hanger, scarf hanger, and a casual tote bag! All these things only cost me Y1400 or IDR 140,000. Whoaaa I love love love love the shop!
The second I got to the hotel and looking at to my purchase, a massive regret came in mind. Why the hell I didn’t buy more items!! Aghhh!! It always better being regret of buying things than the other way around. To make it worse, after doing some browsing, Flying Tiger is originally from Copenhagen, Denmark and for Asian market, they only exist in Japan. Pleaseeee send me back to Odaiba!!!
9. TOKYO SUBWAY AND THE INFAMOUS SHINKANSEN
Tokyo Subway are well-known of it’s punctuality, they are very-very reliable. If you come to subway stations in the morning, you will see bunch of Japanese running to catch the train. I once bumped into them and getting freaked out and almost about to run as well. LOL! I thought they were trying to save themselves from something bad behind. Yeah well, they were! from being late to their office. 😀
Knowing that Tokyo has the most complicated subway system in the world, it was a good decision to buy Tokyo Rail Map apps just few days before jetting to Japan. So that I know exactly what train I have to take, and which direction I have to go, complete with how many stations I’ll pass through. Extremely useful for Tokyo first-timer like me. Price of the apps only USD 4 or IDR 50k.
Well, overall my trips with Tokyo Subway went okay -thanks to this apps, so I had no chance to get lost. But there are some things that happened which I considered as unpleasant experiences that worth to share in here.
There’s this one time I took train to go back to Shibuya, a young man came in and sat beside me. And suddenly I smelled something a bit annoying which slowly getting stronger. Then I realized, the smell source came from the young man. No it was not like fart-smell. It’s like err..he just had swimming in a pool full of shit, terribly stink!! Yuck! Another person who sat on his right side jumped out from his seat while cynically looking to the young man and moved his ass to other available seat. There were also these 2 moms sitting next to me, staring judgmentally at the young man while holding their nose. Seemed like everyone knew that it’s him! You know what I was doing? Nothing! I kept being cool and innocent. 5 minutes later, this young man left the seat and moved to another car. But, you know what!? the smell stayed permanent! Gahhh! So every time people came in and took the seat beside me, they would eventually make a move to another seat. Me? I don’t know what I was thinking I stayed on the same seat and peacefully let the smell dancing around my nose. Yeah, I know. Stupid, right?
Japanese Worker on the Subway
Anyway, did you know? Being in a Tokyo Subway especially Yamanote line in after office hour around 9 or 10 PM is pretty much the same like being in a weekend-bar loaded by drunk people? At least that’s what I felt like. The train would packed with a lot of people with alcohol breath. Yuck! (again). I was there once, sorry, twice! And my second time was worse, because (I thought) I was being harassed by a guy in a train. I felt someone caressed my hand repeatedly, I was in the position that my hand was not in my sight. At first, I tried to be positive, but it kept going again and again and made me uncomfortable. I suddenly looked around to confirm what was happening. Then there was this guy whom I believe is the suspect, staring at me with his red-drunk-eye. Oh nooo… Chikan! (read:pervert!). Ughh I hate perverts so much!! I rashly pulled my hand to the front, and tried not to make any eye-contact again to the guy. Unluckily, we were alighted in the same station, I was a bit worried that he will following me, so I stopped, pretending to find something in my bag and made sure, he’s gone first with the hustle. And there he was gone…Phew…Thank God!!
Speaking of train, I also managed to use Shinkansen to Kyoto! Yayy!! Who doesn’t want to experience the very first high-speed train in the world? Yeah, Japan was being forward on it. They started the famous Shinkansen in 1960’s when Indonesia was still in a baby age. The train speed is about 250-320 km/h, which means it will take only 2 hours from Tokyo to Kyoto which distance is 450 kms. Whoaa! very efficient! but that efficiency would cost you about Y26,000 or IDR 2,6 Mio for Tokyo-Kyoto round trip. Is that worth? Errr,,, yeah for once in a lifetime I guess. Anyway, I was hoping I would have such a cool speed experience inside the Shinkansen, turned out I couldn’t feel the difference at all. Hahaha, it was totally the same like we’re using a common train. But still, I am happy that I have the chance to experience it.
10. STAYED IN THE HEART OF SHIBUYA
Carulean Tower it is. A hotel with magnificent window-view at night. I could see Tokyo Tower from my room! Perfect lullaby for my eyes in every single night..
Stayed in the heart of Shibuya have made no days without strolling around the streets. Even though it was just for visiting convenience store again and again, or buying drinks from a vending machine in the corner of the street, or just enjoying the ambience of the area which always full of lights and typical Tokyo people.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but I caught myself crossing the iconic Shibuya intersection many times without purpose, just to blend in with the crowd. Hahaha! I just love it, y’ know!